Now that Easter is over, I’ve had some time to reflect on what it all means. When I was growing up in a Christian family, I never understood all the fuss concerning Easter. Now that I am older, I understand the fuss but I don’t buy into it. All I see is the Church’s selling of salvation.
I had always been taught that Original Sin comes from the Genesis story. Well, that’s where things get fuzzy. God punished Adam and Eve but he didn’t put any such curse of Original Sin on them (see Genesis 3:16-19). Then in Genesis 8:21, God had an epiphany, “ …and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth….” So, obviously, man did not inherit sin from Adam in that he only became evil beginning in his youth. Jesus actually talks about how men should be like little children in order to enter the kingdom of heaven; so, again, no sin until after early childhood.
That alone should end the discussion, but I wanted to know more. Since the Genesis story was part of the Jewish Bible and Judaism does not recognize the concept of Original Sin, I wanted to know how that concept found its way into Christianity. Because Original Sin was strictly a Christian concept, I turned to the New Testament for answers. However, the answers weren’t exactly what I had expected. First of all, the disciples did not teach or write about the concept of Original Sin, or Easter either for that matter. Nevertheless, the subject of sin was a hot topic and the disciples even queried Jesus about it, “And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). Jesus responded by saying, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). So, even Jesus rebuked the idea of Original Sin.
The first actual mention of Original Sin in the Bible is in Romans. The thing is that Paul’s concept of Original Sin does not mean that Adam’s sin was inherited by future generations as can be plainly seen in Romans 5:14, as follows, “Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come” (emphasis mine). Accordingly, noted 19th century evangelist, Charles Finney, denied the doctrine of Original Sin.
When you think about it, the concept of Original Sin is really only necessary if Jesus came to this world to save mankind. If, instead, he had only came to spread a message of hope and love, then the concept of sin wouldn’t be very important at all. So if the concept of Original Sin is incorrect, which it certainly appears to be, then the idea that Jesus came here to save us all is probably also incorrect. The truth is that Christianity needs the concept of salvation in order to make Jesus a universal savior (as opposed to the Jewish messiah that everyone was expecting and was prophesied about in the Bible).
Likewise, the concept of a Second Coming also needs to agree with the biblical account. For example, in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus discusses the End of Days with the disciples, as follows: “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus responded, in part, by saying, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:29-30).
The disciples had asked when the end of the world would occur and Jesus answered by saying, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:34). Therefore, as Albert Schweitzer said in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus, the Second Coming was supposed to occur in the lifetime of the disciples!
In a world of false prophets, one can only wonder who speaks the truth and who does not. Clearly, the Bible and Church doctrine are not in agreement. Doctrines like Original Sin, the Trinity and salvation through Christ can all be called into question.
Early Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria (in On First Principles) said that the resurrection related to the spirit, not the mortal body. He considered the concept of a resurrection to be for those that did not have eyes to see and ears to hear, meaning that the story of the resurrection of a physical body was strictly a surface story for the unenlightened. The real story could only be understood by those that were very enlightened (and had been initiated into the Mysteries).
All religions borrow concepts from other religions; the resurrection concept is no exception. For example, “The pagan belief was that the sun died on the winter solstice (December 22nd) because on that day the sun reached its lowest point in the heavens. The sun was then considered to be “dead and buried” for three days because it stayed at this lowest point on the horizon during that time. When the sun once again made its way higher in the heavens on December 25th, it was said to have been born again (resurrected)” (The Ethical Warrior, Why Are Christians Leaving the Church?). So on the spring equinox, pagans celebrated the resurrection of the sun god whose own “death and rebirth” symbolized the death and rebirth of life associated with the spring equinox. That’s the story of how the world wound up with Easter bunnies, Easter eggs and sunrise services.
The real Jesus told the disciples that he would return soon. The real Jesus was not recognizable by either Mary Magdalene or by various disciples. The real Jesus was named Yeshua, but was never named (or even called) Immanuel. The real Jesus believed in reincarnation and the real Jesus… didn’t die on the cross.
There are a number of people who believe that Jesus survived the crucifixion. A movie, “The Passion of Christ,” was even made based on that premise, which was from the book of the same name by biblical scholar Hugh Schonfeld. One of the more important sources for this idea was none other than early church father Irenaeus. In his famous work “Against Heresies,” Irenaeus wrote that Jesus went to India after the crucifixion and lived to an advanced age. Jesus’ travels to India, long after the crucifixion, is confirmed in the Acts of Thomas, which is attributed to the disciple Thomas.
It was noted historian and humanitarian Albert Schweitzer who was one of the first to point out that the gospels (see Mark 13 and Matthew 24) actually say that Jesus intended on returning (the Second Coming) in the “lifetime of the disciples”. Needless to say, that never happened. Obviously then, as Schweitzer noted, Jesus could not have been divine. As it says in the Bible, if a prophet says that something will occur and it does not, then the prophet does not speak the Word of God (see Deuteronomy 18:22). However, it does not preclude the possibility that Jesus survived the crucifixion.
The Bible says that Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me” (Mark 15:34/ Matthew 27:46). A divine Jesus would have never uttered those words. How foolish it would have been of Jesus to have forsaken himself (if he were God incarnate) and how ridiculous it would have been for Jesus to say those words since he knew that he was supposed to die (even if he was only the Son of God). Obviously, then, God did not forsake him. However, Jesus may have thought that someone was going to get him off the cross before he expired, and that someone had not yet shown up.
Jesus was on the cross for only 6 hours when he was taken down from the cross. It takes 2-4 days, and sometimes even longer, for a person to die on the cross. Jesus may well have been alive, then, just as the other two men being crucified with Jesus were also alive. Even Pontius Pilate, himself, could not believe that Jesus had died so soon. Beyond that, one has to seriously ask the question of why the crucifixion was started at all when it was just a few hours before the Sabbath, at which time this kind of punishment was disallowed under Jewish law.
The interesting thing about the crucifixion is that it took place in the private garden of Joseph of Arimathea, at a distance from any onlookers (Luke 23:49). It was Joseph of Arimathea who requested Jesus’ body from Pilate and it was Joseph of Arimathea who brought 100 pounds (why so much?) of myrrh and aloes, which have medicinal uses, to the tomb wherein the body of Jesus was laid. It was Joseph of Arimathea who was a secret disciple of Jesus (John 19:38). Finally, Joseph of Arimathea would have had to have been a member of Jesus’ immediate family in order to ask for possession of the body! Of course, Joseph of Arimathea, being the rich man that he was, could have easily offered Pilate a bribe not to have Jesus crucified, especially since Pilate didn’t think that Jesus had done anything wrong. The fact that he didn’t offer a bribe, is very telling.
Aside: Historians and theologians alike have said that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, but what if that is not correct? The gospels all say that he was crucified in Jerusalems (per the New Testament written in the original Greek). That’s Jerusalem with an “s” at the end. Remember, the Dead Sea Scrolls identified the disciples as part of a small Jewish religious community that lived in Qumran, which they considered to be the New Jerusalem. So what if the location of the crucifixion site was really Qumran, which would explain why archaeologists have never found it.
Historian Jaroslav Pelikan once commented that Jesus is the dominant figure in the history of Western culture. However, it’s hard to imagine that so little is really known about such an important historical figure. Regardless of what the truth of the matter is, I would argue that the history of Jesus has been intentionally obfuscated. As Jean Jacques Rousseau said, “The falsification of history has done more to mislead humans than any single thing known to mankind.” In that regard, the great library at Alexandria, which contained the wisdom of the ages, was burned down to forever conceal the truth about Jesus.
In the final analysis, there are plenty of arguments pro and con for the divinity of Jesus. It probably doesn’t matter anyway since people already have their minds made up, one way or another. As Stuart Chase so aptly put it, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.”
The real Jesus is for the most part missing from the Bible. The real Jesus would not have died for a cause, but he might have faked his death to promote such a cause. The real Jesus would have returned as he promised the disciples…if he could have.
“Those who say that the lord died first and then rose up are in error, for he rose up first and then died.”
– Gospel of Philip
Growing up in a Christian family, I always wondered why Christianity adopted the god of another religion without adopting the religion itself. Exactly how did that happen, and why? Let’s break it down.
Christianity has a holy book, The Bible, which is in two main parts, namely the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament is actually the Jewish Bible, so here’s where things get a little fuzzy. You see, Christianity says that the Old Testament doesn’t mean what Judaism says it means. Maybe, I should repeat that. The Jews wrote the Old Testament, but Christianity says that they (the Jews) don’t really understand what they wrote! So perhaps a little background is in order.
The Old Testament is a history book, of sorts, which starts with the Creation after which it mostly covers the history of the Hebrews/Israelites. The Old Testament texts were written by Jews, for Jews and about Jews. Yet, Christianity claims to have a more perfect understanding of the texts than the people who wrote them. How bizarre is that?
Of course, historians and theologians of all stripes pretty much agree that Christianity was an offshoot of Judaism. That’s made very clear as a result of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jesus and his disciples were Jewish and they followed the Torah. The only messiah that the disciples were expecting was a Jewish messiah, the messiah mentioned in the Jewish Bible (Old Testament). Why is the concept of a Jewish messiah important? Why, because the coming of the messiah was prophecized by the prophets who were Jewish holy men. It was their messiah that they were expecting, not a divine Christian messiah. So, the Christian concept of a messiah was hijacked from the messiah that the Jewish holy men were expecting. Yes, hijacked. It’s the very same messiah, albeit totally changed.
So the mystery is why would anyone do such a thing?
Let’s back up just a bit. The word messiah in Hebrew means “anointed one,” as all kings were anointed when crowned king. In the same vein, the title Christ, from the Greek word “christos”, also means anointed. The prophets actually believed that the messiah would deliver them from their Roman oppressors and restore the Kingdom of Israel. So, for example, when the disciples asked Jesus, “…Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6), they understood that this was potentially the fulfillment of one of the Old Testament prophecies. Of course, it never happened.
In the book of Matthew, there are repeated references to Jesus, as the Son of David or in Matthew 2:1-2 he was called the King of the Jews by the Three Wise Men. Note: They did not refer to him as God or even as the Son of God. People referred to Jesus the way that they did because prophecy stated that the Jewish messiah had to be descended from King David and that such a messiah would be a man (not a divine being). The person that they were expecting would be the King of Israel, not unlike King David who was both a messiah and a king. Likewise, people were expecting the Jewish messiah to be both a messiah and a king and thus Jesus was addressed as such by the people who believed that he might be the long-awaited Jewish messiah. At that time, there was no such thing as a Christian messiah as the idea of a Christian messiah would only come later. So, the only context that people (and the disciples) had was that of a Jewish messiah.
Aside: If Jesus was divine and born of a virgin mother (Mary), he could not have fulfilled prophecy anyway as he would not have been descended from King David, as the Davidic line ran through Joseph, and not Mary.
So why, then, did Christianity adopt the Jewish messiah concept (and then redefine it)? Well, what choice did they really have? The disciples were Jewish and they followed the Torah and they worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Acts 3:13)…and they were expecting a Jewish messiah. World-renown humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, in his book “The Mystery of the Kingdom of God,” wrote that Jesus and his followers expected the imminent end of the world. As Schweitzer noted, the discussion of the tribulation and the second coming of Jesus is spelled out in chapter 13 of the gospel of Mark, especially the timing which was specified by Jesus to his disciples, “Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.” (Mark 13:30) So, this was something that the disciples expected in their lifetime, and not some 2,000 years later. The gospel of Matthew (chapter 24) confirms that the ”end of days” will be in the disciples’ lifetime and Paul also believed in the imminent end of the world as can be seen in 1 Thessalonians 4.
Christianity’s roots were in Judaism, but the church doctrine was developed for gentiles (read: the Roman Empire). For example, the concept of Original Sin is nowhere to be found in Judaism and the Church’s teachings on this doctrine are antithetical to the core principles of the Torah. Also, Judaism does not include the concept of a trinity. Heck, the word “trinity” can’t even be found in the Bible (not even in the New Testament). However, because of antisemitism, a Jewish religion and its concept of a messiah, would never have been acceptable to the rest of the world (gentile world, that is). So, Paul cast off the Torah, effectively castigating Judaism, and in the process created Christianity. The umbilical cord was cut and Christianity became the new pagan religion of the gentiles. To gain new converts to the religion, Christianity offered a new and totally radical idea – the concept of a universal messiah who came to save the entire world. In stark contrast, the prophets wrote about the coming of a Jewish messiah who would come specifically to reestablish the Kingdom of Israel.
Much of the history of these events has long since been obscured. As a result, most Christians today have little idea what a circuitous route Christianity took before it was formalized and where Christian doctrine really came from. As Christian theologian Brian McLaren said, “One of the problems is that the average Christian in the average church who listens to the average Christian broadcasting has such an oversimplified understanding of both the Bible and of church history – it would be deeply disturbing for them to really learn church history.”
In 325 A.D. at the Council of Nicaea, a group of Christian bishops were convened at the behest of Emperor Constantine to determine Church doctrine. Of the 1,800 church bishops, approximately 300 attended, less by some accounts. The process of determining Church doctrine had begun. It would take almost another 100 years before it was finally determined which of the various scriptures were to be included in, or excluded from, the Bible. So, approximately four hundred years after Jesus, the Church became the final arbiter as to what scriptures were, or were not, divinely inspired.
Apparently, the topic of evil never seems to get old for some people. There have been a number of posts recently with the same old issues, with no real answers. So let’s try and break it down.
The arguments about evil usually center around why evil exists. After all, Christianity says that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. Atheists usually surface this issue in an attempt to disprove God, as if you could ever prove a negative. Deists, on the other hand, occasionally dip their toes into these treacherous waters in attempt to silence the skeptics, of which I am certainly one. For example, one Christian website had this to say about evil: “Some day God will ultimately and finally overcome evil entirely.” Wow, is about all I can say.
The use of logic is typically in the forefront in trying to resolve this issue one way or another. The concern with logic is that one has to use their brain to solve this riddle. Problem is, the brain is hardly an ingenious work of creation, especially since man’s DNA has been genetically manipulated to produce a dumbed-down species. This is the meaning behind the story in Genesis 2 whereby God restricts man’s access to the Tree of Life (which symbolically is the double-helix structure of our DNA).
The bottom line is that man doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. Just ask Socrates. Intellectuals are sometimes their own worst enemy in this regard. For example, because they are smarter than the vast majority of people, they mistake this for actually being intelligent. Unlike Socrates, they don’t realize how little they really know. Case in point is world-renown physicist Stephen Hawking who said that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary.”
So this time, the Wow Award goes to Hawking. You see, Hawking, an atheist, admits that one can’t prove that God doesn’t exist. Actually, props for that although he took a certain amount of flak from some of his peers for making such a statement. Then the zinger – science makes God unnecessary. From a somewhat uninterested third party, I’m stunned that Hawking would make such a statement. For sure, Hawking understands that science cannot observe what exists outside space and time. What the world is then left with, if we were to follow Hawking’s line of thinking, is that man should abandon any belief in a Creator despite the limitations of science in that regard. Actually, I think what Hawking is really suggesting is that we should make him God, instead. Who does he think he is anyway, a celebrity? Well, yes, now that they’ve turned his life story into a movie which was nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.
This whole problem of evil is a red herring to some extent. It presupposes that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent and it also assumes that evil is always a bad thing. Perhaps, worst of all, the problem of evil hinges on the many assumptions concerning any definition of God. After all, how could we ever know what God is like?
To you theists, please don’t say the Bible because in the Old Testament God walks, talks, is seen by various people, wrestles with Jacob and physically kills people. Totally contrary to that, the God of the New Testament is invisible, is spirit and, as John says, no one has ever seen God! Under those circumstances, any biblical definitions are rendered meaningless, especially the concepts of omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence.
To you atheists, please don’t say that science can tell us because science, by definition, requires observation and measurement. So observation and measurement of Intelligent Design are out of the question. Therefore, the atheists opposition to intelligent design is not scientific, rather it’s a form of religion.
It’s interesting that the focal point of the theists vs atheists debates centers on Christianity. So, for example, why don’t the atheists attack another religion, say Buddhism, similarly? The answer is that Epicurus’ logic problem won’t work on Buddhism. So it’s expedient, even necessary, to single out Christianity in order to try and win the debate. I’d give them a Wow Award right here except for one thing – it’s a brilliant strategy. However, I defy anyone to prove to me what evil is. Who’s to say that evil isn’t really a necessity of Creation. In other words, how would you know what good is without also experiencing evil?
So the discussion about evil has to, at some point, also encompass morality. This one is kind of a sticky wicket, so to speak. What is good and what is evil, and how do you define either? There are all sorts of opinions concerning the question of morality, but two that I’ve always liked are as follows:
- Jean Paul Sartre, an atheist, said that since there was no God, man has no standard of human behavior (moral values) and without any such values man’s actions cannot be judged to be either right or wrong. For example in Existentialism is a Humanism, Sartre agreed with Dostoevsky that “If God does not exist, everything is permitted.” (fromThe Brothers Karamazov)
- Douglas Wilson, a Christian theologian, said that, “If there is no God, then all abstractions are chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality….”
One of the reasons that I picked those two opinions is that they are from totally contrary belief systems and yet they have a certain commonality between them. However, they are, after all, only two opinions.
Of course, the public debate over the concept of evil is only possible because of what I call the morass of Christian theology. I say morass because I’m not exactly sure what Christianity is. If you were to ask a Catholic, a Mormon and a Fundamentalist, I suspect that you might get three totally different answers; even their holy books are different. However, since the debate over evil includes a Christian definition of God, as being omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, I will likewise dip my toes into those same treacherous waters.
So at the risk of offending many of my Christian friends, I’ll try to explain the omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent conundrum, as follows:
If God is an infinite being, then he could not be omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent. Those are attributes of a finite being (like man). In any event, even if God had the capability of somehow being omniscient, there are many things stated in the Bible which indicate otherwise (e.g. see Genesis 3:8-13, Genesis 11:5, Genesis 18:20-21, Genesis 32:22-30, Job 1:7, 2:2). However, the most obvious reason is the Genesis creation story where God saw that everything he created was good. However, later in Genesis 6:5-7, God repented when he realized that man was not good so he decided to destroy him. Obviously, an omniscient God would have no reason to repent for he would have known in advance how his creation would turn out. Further, with that foreknowledge, God would not have created man in the first place.
So the Christian god of the Bible was not “omni” anything. Actually, he wasn’t even God. He was simply one of “The Gods That Never Were,” which is posted a few articles back. The gods of Genesis do have one claim to fame, though, in that they have genetically passed on to man a predisposition for evil. So, if you’re an atheist, it’s probably okay to blame “God” for evil. Of course, you wouldn’t be talking about a Prime Creator/First Cause since the debate over evil really only concerns the Christian god.
The following comment from a forum on this topic kind of sums it up rather well, at least for me: “… Atheists in general require some proof or logical set of reasoning…whereas theists don’t – they simply ‘believe’. Arguments boil down to people shouting ‘I need proof or I don’t believe’ at people shouting ‘I have faith, I don’t need proof.'” While it’s true that any conversation about God has to be governed, to some degree, by logic, it doesn’t mean that we could ever use logic to comprehend such a god. Just ask Blaise Pascal. Since the laws of physics don’t apply beyond space and time, why do we arrogantly believe that logic in our world can determine what lies beyond space and time?
Obviously, you don’t have to agree with my take on this subject. I’m just trying to be a mirror to let you see what Socrates saw. Simply, that man must begin any quest for knowledge by admitting his own ignorance. In the final analysis, “faith” and “logic” are simply buzz words for not having to admit to one’s ignorance.
I keep coming across Christians who have ditched their faith, in part or in some cases altogether. While I’m sure that it’s natural for people to occasionally switch faiths or to become non-believers (e.g. become agnostics or atheists), this phenomena appears to be something different. It seems to be especially prevalent with respect to Christian Fundamentalism. So let’s try and break it down:
The origins of religion
Man has always had a psychological need to believe in a higher power. For example, the concept of a higher power provides people with some meaning to their existence and a rough explanation of the world they live in. Religion, then, must give its members a reason to have faith (in its religious doctrine). In order for that to happen, those members must first believe – believe that their religion, above all others, is privy to the Word of God and believe that their holy book is the one and only authentic book of God. I’m talking about the one and only.
Now, belief is a funny thing. For example, to have even a shred of legitimacy, religion must have some kind of moral authority. Is it any wonder then that religions generally have started with a vision of God, or perhaps angels? After all, absolute moral authority can really only come from, what the Bible calls, a Most High God (see Luke 8:28). Aside: The inference, by the way, is that there are gods who are below the Most High God (for example, Yahweh/Jehovah).
In ancient times, man worshipped the sun because it was the obvious source of life. The concept of sun worship is even in the Bible, where in Psalm 84:11 it says, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield.” The pagan belief was that the sun died on the winter solstice (December 22nd) because on that day the sun reached its lowest point in the heavens. The sun was then considered to be “dead and buried” for three days because it stayed at this lowest point on the horizon during that time. When the sun once again made its way higher in the heavens on December 25th, it was said to have been born again (resurrected). Accordingly, December 25th was eventually celebrated as Sol Invictus Day, the day honoring the sun God. Most religions are basically a corruption of astral theology and the worship of the sun. Long before there was Christianity, the Egyptians worshipped Ra, the sun god. One of the sons of Ra was the god Osiris who mythologically was considered to be a dying and rising savior god (i.e. he was resurrected from the dead). The Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, circa 1400 BC, was credited with being the first to propose a monotheistic concept. Moses, an Egyptian himself regardless of his genetic heritage, took that monotheistic concept with him when he left Egypt and later it would surface as part of Judaism’s belief system. Eventually, a small monastic order of Jews would help the monotheistic concept morph into what is now Christianity.
Christianity and its ever-changing Word of God
The Christian belief system has gone through many transformations over time. First, the world had Pauline Christianity. Then thanks to the Roman Emperor Constantine, we got Roman Catholicism. Later the Eastern Orthodox Church would split from Rome. Note: Today the Eastern Orthodox Church is the 3rd largest denomination in Christianity. After the Reformation, Protestantism in its many flavors/denominations would also break away from the Roman Catholic Church. However, it has only been in the last 100 years or so that Fundamentalism has tried to redefine Christianity.
The changing face of Christian beliefs belie whether or not there is such a thing as a true Word of God. For example, if one were to believe as the fundamentalists do, then what does one make of the first 1,500 years of Christianity? The only conclusion that one could come to is that Christians did not understand the Word of God for the first 1,500 years of Christianity! This implies that, during that same period, Christians were hardly better than non-believers. Would they even have been saved?
The great mystery surrounding the Word of God
The Bible, itself, merely adds to the confusion. For example, which Bible of the many different editions is the one and only Word of God? There are generally different Bibles for different branches of Christianity. The original Bible was the Catholic Bible which has 17 more books than most Protestant Bibles. So, for the first 1,000 years, or so, of Christianity, the Catholic Bible was the only Word of God. But for most Christians today, the Catholic Bible is not considered to be the Word of God.
Then there is the little problem of bible content, specifically the so-called mysteries of the Kingdom of God (the esoteric wisdom of the ages). It was none other than church father Clement of Alexandria who admitted that Christianity withheld this esoteric wisdom from the masses (the most that the masses ever got was a Bible). As he said, it was only taught to the very few – “to those who are being initiated into the great mysteries.” Aside: The great mysteries, of course, was a secret society which was made available only to certain “highly enlightened” individuals.
The Bible, itself, also says that this wisdom about the Kingdom of God was withheld from the masses. A couple of examples of this are as follows:
- “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew….” – Corinthians 2:6-8
Aside: So here Paul says that he does not speak about the wisdom of the ages even to the mature, and that this wisdom when it is spoken (in private) is done so only in a mystery, meaning that it is heavily disguised in symbolism and allegory.
- “To you, the disciples, it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them, the masses, it has not been given.” – Matthew 13:11
Aside: So Jesus told the disciples, and only the disciples, about the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Of course, it’s clearly understood from the Bible that the disciples did not understand the teachings of Jesus which were in the form of parables.
An example of the biblical stories which were disguised with symbolism and allegory is the resurrection of Jesus. It was early Christian theologian Origen of Alexandria (in On First Principles) who said that the resurrection related to the spirit, not the mortal body. He considered the concept of a resurrection to be for those that did not have “eyes to see and ears to hear”. The “eyes to see and ears to hear”, of course, was a reference to one of Jesus’ well-known parables.
Accordingly, the Bible has many surface stories which were quite often based on mythology. It’s no wonder then that in Judaism they believe that the Old Testament needs to be reinterpreted. That’s why the rabbis of ancient times authored the Talmud – to explain what the Old Testament meant. I’m not necessarily endorsing the Talmud, but rather pointing out that Jewish holy men felt compelled to tell people that the Old Testament was not the whole story. Beneath the symbolism and mythology, there was another message which was hidden from the unenlightened. I guess they should know, since Jewish holy men wrote the Old Testament (i.e. the Jewish Bible).
So, then, why are some people leaving Christianity? To begin with, young people are far more enlightened than their parents or their grandparents were. They recognize that there are inconsistencies in the Bible. They therefore find it hard, if not impossible, to accept that the Bible is the unerring Word of God. They also ask tough questions. They want, and need, an explanation for all the evil and hardship in the world. For example, many of them would like to know why a baby has to suffer and die a horrible death – because of Original Sin? Then, there’s the age-old question of whether God is the source of evil.
Christianity has been unable to satisfy many of their parishioners on these important questions. People are tired of the worn-out euphemisms that are trotted out each Sunday in church. They long for a more satisfactory answer to the questions about creation and the meaning of life. It’s no longer sufficient just to say that God works in mysterious ways. People are searching for the truth and, perhaps on some intuitive level, many of them realize that there is a problem with the church’s message. For sure, they know that they have been unable to find God. So many of them have left the church and now label themselves as agnostic or atheist.
The lack of a charismatic leader has hampered the church in consolidating its faith under one umbrella. Certainly, the Pope would like to be that person but the Catholic Church has little standing in much of the Christian world. However, unlike the Protestant churches, the Vatican is taking a leading role in trying to reshape Christianity given the new realities of the world that we live in. They have made a startling public statement that Christians will have to reevaluate their faith and come to a new understanding of the Bible. That statement was made in an interview entitled “The Extraterrestrial Is My Brother.” I’ll let you connect the dots.
Such a statement strongly suggests that the Vatican knows a lot more than what they are telling the masses. Perhaps one day they will even tell us who the “gods” are who are not the Most High God (see above). Perhaps they will tell us that those “gods’ are our brothers, genetically speaking. They could even point to the Bible that we should have known as much all along (see the Genesis 6:2-4 reference to the bene ha’elohim). One thing is for certain, though. If their statement that Christians will have to reevaluate their faith is true, there will certainly be a flood of worshipers exiting Christianity.
“Men fight about religion on earth; in heaven they shall find out that there is only one true religion – the worship of God’s Spirit.”
– Max Muller
If I had a dollar for every time a minister said, “And last night God talked to me”, I’d be a rich man. Oddly enough, the only one who might actually be able to prove that he talked to God is Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty).
Funny thing is, though, no one has yet to actually describe him (God, that is). Considering that so many people are literally dying to see God, you’d think that someone would have described him by now. Then, again, perhaps as the Apostle John said, “No one has ever seen God.” So what, then, should one make of all the biblical stories about God. Well, let’s start at the beginning.
In the beginning there was God, and only God. There was no sound, no color, no matter. Then, God supposedly uttered the now famous words, “Let there be light.”(Genesis 1:3). So, tell me, who exactly was there to hear those words. After all, man had not yet been created. That didn’t happen until Genesis 1:26.
There are so many things that we don’t know about God. Here’s a very brief list, although there is obviously much more:
- What does God look like?
- Is God really a man?
- Why did God violate his own commandments?
- Why did God even need a covenant with the Israelites? Indeed, why would God ever need a covenant with his creation? Actually, there were several covenants, since the Israelites never seemed to live up to their side of the bargain; so why would God keep giving them second chances even though he obviously knew the outcome?
Now, I could answer all of those questions but what would be the point. Who would believe me anyway? Certainly, not anyone who has already been indoctrinated with a holy book, that’s for sure. Besides, as Brian McLaren said, the answers would be very unsettling to the average Christian.
Since we know virtually nothing about God (does anyone even have his email address?), how would we know God if we met him. Is he big or small? What color hair and skin does he have? Is he really a Him, or rather a She or an It? That being the case, if we had an other-wordly experience, how would we know that it was God who entered our life? Perhaps, it was an angel, maybe even a Fallen Angel; or maybe it was a demon…or the Devil himself. How could we possibly tell the difference?
In that vein, why should we believe that Joseph Smith talked to an angel (resulting in the Mormon religion)? How did he know that it was an angel, since he had never met one before? Actually, most of the people in the world don’t believe Smith, since Mormons number only about 15 million worldwide . Aside: The vast majority of Mormons were born to Mormon parents so they were conditioned to believe church doctrine from an early age.
So how about Mohammed who supposedly talked to an angel (culminating in Islam)? Well, most of the world apparently doesn’t believe him either, since there are only 1.6 billion Muslims. Aside: Of course, the vast majority of them were raised as Muslims because their parents were Muslims as well.
Then there was Abraham and Moses who brought us Judaism. How many Jews are there in the world after all? The answer is that there are only 14 million Jews in the world. Aside: I don’t know any non-Jewish people who practice Judaism.
Finally, we have Christianity which came to the world mostly thanks to one man, Paul, who had a vision of a man (Jesus) whom he had never met. How did he know that his vision was of Jesus? The answer is because the vision supposedly told him so. Nonetheless, Paul apparently was somewhat believable as today there are 2.2 billion Christians. Of course, that means that 4.7 billion people don’t believe the vision of Paul, and why should they? Does anyone today even know Paul? Of course not. Do we know anyone who knew him? Obviously not. Even if we knew him, why would we believe him? What makes his vision worthy of consideration when the visions of others have been discounted? His story may or may not have been factual and even if it was factual it may have been completely misunderstood by Paul himself. After all, he never saw anyone, only a voice from an invisible entity – a voice coming out of nowhere. So because Paul had this vision, suddenly his every word became gospel. His concept of God and the man, Jesus, he never met (at least not in the flesh) was believed over all the holy men of the day. This is the kind of thing that usually only happens in cults. A charismatic figure says that he is the second coming, of whoever, and he attracts a group of loyal followers. Even today there are people who say that they are the reincarnation of Jesus and some people actually believe them.
Paul’s Christianity originally went under the label of Roman Catholicism, thanks to the Roman emperor Constantine who used it to consolidate his power and his empire. There were no Protestants back then and actually no Protestants for another 1,000 years or so thereafter. For Protestants today, their form of Christianity is a “hijacked” version of Catholicism. Oddly enough, then, the Word of God for the first 1,000 years of Christianity has been replaced by… well, by a myriad of other definitions and interpretations of the Word of God. There’s actually a different Word of God for each of the many Protestant denominations. With so many denominations, everybody gets to define the Word of God in their own way.
Of course, Protestants don’t necessarily agree with the Vatican when it comes to the central tenets of Christianity. For that, we can thank primarily one man, Martin Luther – and he never even had a vision. So why did anyone believe him? Other than being a monk, what was his claim to fame and why should he have been believed over all others?
The history books would say that the Reformation was a rebellion against the power of the Pope and the Catholic Church. So once again politics played a major role in Christianity – from Emperor Constantine to Martin Luther. Of course, the Pope and the Vatican are still major players on the world stage today. They recently made a public statement that Christians will have to reevaluate their faith and come to a new understanding of the Bible. Pretty shocking stuff, right? I could tell you why they believe that but what would be the point? After all, does anyone really want to hear that the Word of God didn’t actually come from God? The Vatican understands this and they know that full disclosure is not too far off.
So in the meantime on a clear night in the Arizona desert, on sacred Native American land literally stolen from the Apaches, the Vatican’s top astronomer and his minions are busy searching the heavens through their new billion dollar telescope named Lucifer. Yes, they named their expensive, new toy Lucifer, of all things. So why does the Vatican have to spend such an outlandish amount of money on a telescope when people are starving to death in the world? Well, the Bible says that God arrives from the heavens – just ask Ezekiel. Obviously, the Vatican is expecting God/Lucifer to return, and soon.
Regardless, some people will only believe what their holy book tells them. They point to the visions of their prophets and recite the legends of those who have supposedly spoken to God. Now, if they could only just describe God to the rest of us, maybe the world might actually believe them.
– Joseph Campbell
The reaction to my recent post The Gods That Never Were was not exactly what I might have expected, especially the part about Cain. So here’s a slightly different rendition which is based solely on the Bible:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26) Note: God didn’t say that he was going to make man in his image, but rather in “our” image. So, who else was there (in the beginning) that had a key part in Creation? Keep in mind that it had to be someone with the same image and likeness as God. In addition, whoever it was also had to look like man since man was supposedly made in the image and likeness of the creator god.
“Then God said, ‘I give you… every tree that has fruit and seed in it. They will be yours for food.’” (Genesis 1:29) and “And the Lord God commanded the man…’you must not eat from the Tree of Knowledge…for when you eat from it you will surely die.’” (Genesis 2:16-17). Note: So God gave man the Tree of Knowledge and then took it back. What was he afraid of?
“And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us.” (Genesis 3:22). Note: So man was somehow elevated to the level of a god (which is confirmed in Genesis 3:5). Now we know what he was afraid of.
“…and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord. (Genesis 4:1) and “This is the written account of Adam’s family line…When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.” (Genesis 5:1-5). Note: The Bible never says that Cain and Abel were the children of Adam. However, it does say that they were children of Eve and it also says that Eve had “gotten” Cain from God (the Lord).
“ Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother.” (John 3:12) and “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” (John 8:44) Note: The Bible thus confirms that Adam was not the father of Cain as the father of Cain was a murderer and was referred to as “that wicked one”.
To recap, two or more entities who had the same image and likeness of man created mankind. There apparently wasn’t much of a difference between these creators and mankind since the creators acknowledged that man could (and did) attain the same level of godhood as them. Cain and Abel were not fathered by Adam but were the direct result of the actions of one of the creator gods. In the case of Cain, that creator god was not considered to be a very nice person, to say the least. In any event, he certainly could not have been Adam, or even God for that matter.
However, they certainly could have been the fathers of the sons of God, as it was described in the Bible. The sons of God (bene ha’elohim) made their first appearance in the Bible as follows: “The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves… when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them….”(Genesis 6: 2-4). The elohim (a plural term) were the gods of the Genesis creation story and the Hebrew word elohim was generally translated as the Lord (a singular term) in Genesis 2. So what we have is the gods of Genesis 2 who spawned the sons of the gods of Genesis 6. As it says in Psalm 82:6, “I (Jehovah) have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the Most High”.
So where does that leave us? Well, the Bible says that, “When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance…For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob (Israel) is the lot of his inheritance.” (Deuteronomy 32:8-9) Well, the Bible is clearly saying that the god of the Bible is not God, the Prime Creator (the Most High). So maybe there’s some truth to the Gospel of Judas, the spot where Jesus tells the disciples that they were praying to a creator god, but not to God, the Prime Creator. Perhaps, that’s why his true teachings were ultimately suppressed.
Some scientists actually agree with the Bible on parts of this issue. For example, Francis Crick, a world-famous biologist who won the Nobel Prize for discovering the molecular structure of DNA, said that life on Earth was intentionally seeded by an extraterrestrial race (read: the elohim). Then there’s a recent DNA study from the Harvard Medical School, in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, which found that ancient man had sex with a still unknown species. This species was, in fact, the bene ha’elohim. They walked like men and talked like men, just like their fathers, the elohim, did in the Garden of Eden; and like their fathers they also mated with human females.
All of which confirms that man really was created in the image of the gods, and descended from them as well. It’s just that none of these creator gods were actually G-d. The next question, of course, is just who created them? Will the real God please stand up.
“For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many).”
– 1 Corinthians 8:5
The Pascal Wager states that, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible.” However, I think that it is possible to deduce some things about God through the use of logic and negative inference. So with apologies to deists everywhere, here are ten things that I know about God:
10. God is not a man. After all, men wrote the Bible and so, of course, God is always described as Him. One does have to wonder, though, where the first X and Y chromosomes came from.
9. God doesn’t get migraines or have a bad-hair day. However, God might be bi-polar since he did destroy his own creation.
8. God is not omniscient. God didn’t know that his own “perfect” creation would turn out to be imperfect and have to be destroyed. It actually sounds more like an experiment gone terribly awry. In hindsight, though, we should have guessed as much since after creating man, God saw that “it was good”. Really, don’t you think that he should have known that his creation would have been good in advance (before he created it)? Even then, he was wrong about it being good, wasn’t he?
7. God isn’t a very good parent. In the Genesis story, God told his children not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. When they did, he punished them severely (life in prison, so to speak). Of course, since God didn’t teach them right from wrong, there was no way for them to comprehend the concepts of good and evil; in short, they didn’t understand that disobedience was bad. If something similar would have happened today, the parent would certainly have been charged with child abuse, wouldn’t they? In any event, I think that God qualifies as an absentee parent since he hasn’t visited his children in 3,000 years, give or take.
6. God was an “Indian giver.” First, God gave man the Tree of Knowledge (i.e. Genesis 1:29 says, “Then God said, ‘I give you… every tree that has fruit and seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”). Then later, God took the gift back (i.e. Genesis 2:16,17 says, “And the Lord God commanded the man…’you must not eat from the Tree of Knowledge…for when you eat from it you will surely die.’” ). Of course, God lied about the dying part, now didn’t he?
5. See the end of #6.
4. God is the source of evil. For this one a little background is required. That is, in the beginning all there was was God. Nothing else; God and only God. By definition, then, evil could have only come from God, notwithstanding the church’s absurd dogma of “creation out of nothing.” Creation out of nothing was the church’s rationalization as to how something that is evil (man) could have come from something that is perfect (God). However, as Roman philosopher Lucretius said, “Nothing comes from nothing.”
Regardless of whether or not God created man out of nothing, he certainly intended to create evil, as he is presumably all-powerful and all-knowing. The Bible actually confirms this (e.g.“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.” – Isaiah 45:7).
3. The god of the Bible has a split personality. The god of the Old Testament acts totally different from the god of the New Testament. Further, the god of the Old Testament walked and talked with Adam and Eve, Abraham and Moses. He even wrestled with Jacob. To prove his godhood, he would kill innocent men, women and children. People feared him, obviously for good reason. As opposed to that, the god of the New Testament was considered to be spirit only, according to Paul and the Book of John. It is not surprising, then, that John said that no man had ever seen God. I guess one can infer from what he said that the Old Testament stories were not true and, therefore, not the Word of God.
… or could it just simply be that the god of the Old Testament and the god of the New Testament refer to two different entities.
2. God has never interfered in the affairs of man. If he had, it would be a violation of man’s free will. You can’t have it both ways. Either man has free will or he is merely some form of artificial intelligence. For sure, God never ordered up any tsunamis.
1. The god of the bible is not God, the Prime Creator. See prior posts for details.
The great French philosopher Voltaire said it best when he said that, “ If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him.” I believe that Voltaire was correct, although there’s more to the story. To be more precise, God does exist but man invented him anyway. As John said, no one has ever seen God; so man created God in his own image.
Is scientific inquiry meaningful if it never leads to a discovery of what caused the universe to exist in the first place? That is, what’s the point (no pun intended) of proving that there is no point to life? In that vein, it was theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg who said, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it seems pointless.”
So here’s my question: Why does Weinberg, and scientists like him, keep trying? What is the objective of their scientific inquiries? Is there a purpose to any of it? In a perverse sort of way, I think there is. You see, there are many different disciplines in science, but really only two kinds of scientists – those who believe in a Creator and ultimately are trying to prove it through their research and those who don’t believe in a Creator and are trying to prove that one doesn’t exist – to wit, life is pointless.
Two rather interesting viewpoints on this issue from giants of the scientific community are those of Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein. It was Hawking who said that, “One can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, but science makes God unnecessary” and Einstein who declared that, “Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe – a spirit vastly superior to that of man….” Oddly enough, Hawking’s comment does tend to somewhat confirm what Einstein said about a spirit being manifest in the universe. It was Dr. E, himself, who first posited that space and time were constructs (somebody built them). More recently, theoretical theorist Dr. James Gates said that his research shows that certain theories which describe the fundamental nature of the universe contain embedded computer codes. Then there is cosmologist Max Tegmark who says that our external physical reality is a mathematical structure and physicist Paul Davies who stated that, “The universe conforms to an orderly scheme.” More on them later.
Scientific American’s recent article entitled “2 Futures Can Explain Time’s Mysterious Past” is a fascinating article about two competing theories that would revolutionize our idea about time. The problem with the two theories is that they both assume that the universe is a closed system. Accordingly, both theories will always contain anomalies because they exclude that which exists outside of our universe. I say outside of our universe because even theoretical physics now encompasses ideas of other worlds, be they parallel universes, the Multiverse or whatever. So if you can’t incorporate what lies outside of our universe in your scientific theory, then you can never comprehensively define how the universe was created or exactly how it all works.
Aye, there’s the rub because science, by definition, can never prove anything that it can’t observe. John Horgan discussed this very issue of the limitations in science in his book The End of Science. The implication is that science will, if it hasn’t already, hit a wall beyond which it can only speculate. The upshot is that for scientists the rest of Creation (that which is beyond our universe) is unobservable and therefore God, if he exists, will forever be unknowable.
Aside: That is, you can’t scientifically prove whether God exists or not.
Of course, philosophers generally don’t have the same constraints as scientists. It was Time magazine which some years back published the story “Modernizing the Case for God.” In that article, it discussed that philosophers are reexamining the case for God. For many, that discussion harkens back to the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument which was named for its author Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who was one of the great thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Leibniz posited that everything that exists has an explanation for its existence and since we exist there’s an explanation for our existence.
Aside: Another way of understanding the Leibnizian Cosmological Argument is to say that our existence is not found in its own necessity and therefore has to have an external cause.
Today, many scientists painfully realize their dilemma. As Lincoln Barnett wrote in The Universe and Dr. Einstein, “ Along with philosophers’ reduction of all objective reality to a shadow-world of perceptions, scientists have become aware of the alarming limitations of man’s senses.” Despite that, it hasn’t kept them from trying to fathom the unfathomable and to comprehend the incomprehensible. However incomplete, the work of Einstein, Gates, Tegmark and Davies (see above) do have one rather remarkable thing in common – an understanding that there is an underlying order in the cosmos; to wit, somebody or something constructed space/time, was responsible for the computer codes embedded in the fundamental laws of the universe, and created mathematics and the structured order of the universe. In other words, there is an intelligence in the universe. In the words of Leibniz, the universe does not exist because of its own necessity so it must have an external cause – and that external cause implies intelligence (or even vice versa).
This intelligence has been downplayed by various people, in some cases referring to it as Nature or the Natural Laws of the Universe. But as Einstein observed, there can be no laws without a lawgiver. So, I think that it’s high time that this intelligence gets a name. As I’ve suggested before, perhaps we could call it Bubba. However, for some, God might do just as well.
“The universe does not exist ‘out there,’ independent of us. We are inescapably involved in bringing about that which appears to be happening. We are not only observers. We are participators.”
– John Wheeler, physicist